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The Gloucester County School Board has settled a lawsuit brought by former student Gavin Grimm, whom the board had barred from using the boys’ restroom due to his status as a transgender male, for $1.3 million.
The money will cover Grimm’s attorney fees and other legal costs that Grimm incurred when he decided to sue the board over its restroom policy for transgender students.
A spokeswoman for the Gloucester County School Board told The Washington Post that the board had agreed to pay Grimm’s attorney fees, but declined further comment.
Grimm said in a statement that he hoped the settlement would send a message to other school systems that discriminating against transgender students on the basis of their gender identity would cost them financially.
“Rather than allow a child equal access to a safe school environment, the Gloucester School Board decided to fight this child for five years in a costly legal battle that they lost,” he said.
Grimm’s attorney, Josh Block, with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, celebrated the settlement.
“We are glad that this long litigation is finally over and that Gavin has been fully vindicated by the courts, but it should not have taken over six years of expensive litigation to get to this point,” Block said in a statement. “After a year in which state legislatures have introduced an unprecedented number of bills targeting trans youth, we hope that the fee award will give other school boards and lawmakers pause before they use discrimination to score political points.”
Grimm’s fight to use the restroom matching his gender identity dates back to 2014, when Grimm and his mother informed school officials of his transition and requested accommodations. For a while, Grimm was allowed to use the boys’ bathroom at Gloucester High School, without incident.
But an anonymous complaint by a parent prompted the Gloucester County School Board to insert itself into the dispute and adopt a policy barring Grimm, and any other transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity. The school board initially limited Grimm to using either the nurse’s bathroom or the girls’ bathroom, but later constructed several single-stall private bathrooms — in what used to be broom closets — for students to use. However, Grimm was the only student required to use the single-stall facilities.
Grimm sued the school board, alleging it had discriminated against him, in violation of both his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in educational institutions. The case made its way to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in Grimm’s favor, and was slated to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in early 2017.
However, following the election of Donald Trump, the federal government’s position on the rights of transgender students changed, prompting the court to cancel scheduled hearings and send the case back to the lower courts for rehearing.
But Grimm persisted, obtaining favorable rulings at the district level and at the 4th Circuit once again. The school board appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in June, the court declined to take up the case, effectively handing Grimm a win and allowing the 4th Circuit’s findings that Gloucester County’s policy was discriminatory to stand.
“The resolution in Gavin’s case is yet another reason school boards across Virginia should adopt the model policies from the Virginia Department of Education,” Eden Heilman, the legal director of the ACLU of Virginia, said, referring to General Assembly-approved legislation requiring school board to adopt policies on how to deal with transgender students by the start of the upcoming school year.
“Discrimination has no place in Virginia schools,” Heilman added, “and Virginia taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for school boards who act in disregard for the law.”
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